Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS)

Support from family, friends and health professionals

Women often said that they had been very pleasantly surprised to discover how kind and helpful their families, partner, children, friends and work colleagues could be. Practical as well as emotional support was greatly appreciated' a husband might massage an aching back; a friend or family member might accompany the woman to an appointment, cook a meal or encourage her to keep up her social life; a friend might collect children from school or look after small children so that the woman and her partner could attend appointments together. One woman expressed how grateful she was that her sister arranged to be there when she came round from surgery. Another said that her family were wonderful at keeping her spirits up and could even joke about it.
Long standing marriages and friendships were sometimes re-appraised in the light of the diagnosis. One woman commented that she realised her husband seemed to be more attentive now; another that she had realised how important her friends and family really were.
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Sometimes it became clear that people could offer different types of support' one woman reflected that while her husband was great when he accompanied her to appointments he was not as good as her friends when she needed emotional support.
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Women who were single or divorced often described particularly strong support from friends and family. As one put it, her friends were ‘like the family you chose yourself’. A woman who lived on her own said that a friend insisted on coming to look after her after surgery when, due to the general anaesthetic, she did not want to be left alone. Another commented that everyone ‘came up trumps’' friends behaved like friends should and even some of those who she had not realised were friends turned out to be really supportive. Others were amazed and delighted to receive cards and flowers or to hear that people were saying ‘prayers to many different gods’ on their behalf.
Some women said that they preferred not to have a lot of ‘sympathy’ from friends, or that it had been hard to accept help. A nurse, who was single and very busy at work, did not want anyone to go with her to get results but did agree to ring a friend when she returned home. She talked about the importance of choosing the right moment, person and circumstances when she was ready to talk about how she was feeling.
In some cases women felt that they needed to protect other people rather than receive help. One woman told us that she needed to be careful not to upset her husband, who had had a stroke. Another had not told her elderly parents and one woman said that other illness in the family had distracted attention from her, which she welcomed.
Sometimes family and friends did not behave as women would have hoped – perhaps because they were unsure what to do. One woman was hurt that her siblings had not been in contact since they visited her in hospital: she had heard that they were concerned about ‘waking her’ if they rang.
Support from breast care nurses
Sometimes it was not clear to women how the various professionals linked in and worked together, though the breast care nurse was usually seen as having a key role in offering support and information. Some women thought that they were benefitting from the good services that are in place for women with breast cancer, a high profile disease with good support from the NHS and voluntary sector. One described the breast care nurses as a ‘godsend’ who not only offered direct support but put her in touch with a support group. Those who praised the hospital nurses sometimes also commented that they were too busy to offer long term support – as one woman put it they were ‘just swamped’.

Last reviewed July 2017.

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